This week-end I will climb the 1776 stairs of the CN Tower – until just recently, the world’s tallest free-standing structure. The event is a fundraiser for the World Wildlife Foundation but also an interesting opportunity to reflect on perseverance.
When you are looking at a seemingly large obstacle, how do you get over the intimidation? How do you keep going when you get tired? How do you fight the boredom?
- Prepare. Everything is less intimidating if you are prepared. While this is hardly an ironman triathlon, I am hardly an athlete so, many trips to the gym are helping me be confident that I can complete. Not come in first. Just complete.
- Diversify your support team. You’ll need more than strong legs to walk up all those stairs so condition your glutes and abs, your aerobic capacity and get into the right headspace. You need good nutrition and rest. Just as you need a strong body, you need a strong team when facing a work challenge. Ensure you have the right people in place, that they have the right strengths and tools to see the project through to completion, and that they have time to rest and reflect as the project unfolds.
- Reframe. When my husband and I did the climb for the first time in 2009 I was quite nervous and expected it to take me 45 minutes. In fact, it only took me 26 minutes and many people complete the climb in 10-15! I was impressed with the participation of people from all ages, fitness levels, physical abilities, multigenerational families, soldiers and firefighters running up the stairs with their equiment. This is definitely a do-able challenge. Sometimes, it just seems so much bigger when you are looking up at it from the ground and it’s not so bad once you get started.
- Start! Simple enough. If you’ll pardon the obvious pun, just take it step by step ;).
- Mix-it-up. Anyone is going to get tired doing the same repetitive motion so change it up a bit. In the stairs you can go up sideways for a flight or two to use different muscles. You can do a leg-raise to work your glutes or vary your speed. Take a break. In a work situation you can change your perspective. You can ask someone unrelated to the project to provide a fresh take on your approach. Walk over to ask a question instead of sending an e-mail, have a breakfast meeting … just keep going forward.
- Remember your purpose. At every landing in the tower’s stairwell, organisers post children’s artwork depicting endangered species, the planet, forests, etc. These touching little reminders help keep your focus on the greater good that come from your actions – your role in the big picture – and that is motivating.
- Enjoy the journey. Check out the artwork. Talk to people who are going at a similar pace. Think about your strong muscles and powerful lungs. Be grateful for your mobility – many do not have the priviledge. In a work setting, enjoy your team, celebrate milestones, appreciate that you have been given responsibility and entrusted with challenging work. Again, some people would love to be in your shoes!
- Stay positive. For perfectionists, it’s easy to fall into the trap of negative self-talk “you should be in better shape”, “you should go faster”, “look how fast those other people are going”, “you should have made more progress by now” etc… Reject that toxic negativity? You’re there. Good for you. You’re half-way, two-thirds, almost there… Instead of “I’m tired” or “my legs are aching” think “I’m strong”, “I’m almost done”, “I’m much better faster than I was four weeks ago”.
In her book Inner Dynamics of Coaching, Marilyn Atkinson writes about the power of positive visualization. She notes that “the beyond-conscious mind doesn’t register negatives. Whatever you say after the words don’t, no, or not, is what you see and therefore what you are attracting into your life… Whatever you focus on becomes more vivid…” (p.43).
So if you are telling yourself “Don’t slow down”, you’ve placed your attention on slowing down. If you are thinking “Don’t trip” your mind visualizes tripping. Instead, try “pick up your pace”, “keep going” or “Two more flights”. Barbara Coloroso gives similar examples for speaking to children although it applies in any situation. Rather than say: “Don’t run”, provide better direction with a simple “Walk please”. Be positive, kind and encouraging to yourself. Enjoy the challenge and the people you meet along the way. See you at the top!